Evolution of Innocence Chapter 29

By Janet Monstwillo

The group filed down the ladder of the airship, one by one. No one thought they could stand to be an onlooker; however, none of them would allow being left behind. Morbid curiosity led them all down the path to a final goodbye.

The Turks had even gone along. "You got us mixed up in this, now we have to keep going on, even though we won't enjoy the ending," Reno had said.

In a way, that was also true. Who was really bound to Daphne? Derin, of course, then Cloud. Perhaps Joel, but he had not been informed of the decision that led them away from Junon. For the most part, he believed the woman he loved dead; there was no need for him to sit there and watch it.

Kayley should have been happy; by all accounts, she seemed to have a bitter distaste for Daphne. The two of them had clashed horribly, some of it due to jealousy regarding a certain blond man. The rest was due to the obvious animosity. Jenova had killed Aeris in the first place, and now Kayley had basically been the one to send her back to the grave.

They were all brave. The last of the tears had fallen from Yuffie's eyes, as she descended the ladder.

Not a sniffle, nor a sob broke the quiet still as they slowly tread through the city of fragile shells.

Distracting herself, Daphne mused on the origins of such large things. (What sort of sea creature left shells large enough for people to house themselves in? Was this valley once filled with water? The Cetra didn't live underwater did they? I mean, the scuba race seems a little absurd.)

There was an odd air of the surreal as the group crept up towards the building at the lake. Most of the people knew that Aeris had been laid to rest in the waters there.

What is it like, to stand at one's own grave? The question that was on all minds, but slipped to no tongues.

No barrier welcomed them at the entrance to the temple; the final indicator, at last, that the drastic measures being taken were the only ones that could be taken. Tifa blinked back some moisture. (So it does have to be like this.) She leaned a little on Vincent's shoulder as her feet stepped down a spiral glass staircase for the second time.

No matter how slow the pacing was, eventually there had to be an arrival. The path that led to the altar was narrow, and the place itself quite small. Some of the group immediately held back, but the others awaited a decision-someone's, they did not care who-telling them to stay away.

Maybe they should close their eyes too, while they were at it. Oh, why were they even there in the first place?

"Only Zack and Cloud," she whispered.

Obviously, the others were much relieved and held back as the trio slowly wound their way up to the platform. Daphne smiled a bit. "Come on guys, don't look so somber. Cloud's already been to my funeral, and Derin knows I don't have a reason in all the Planet to be sad to die."

"How?" Derin asked, not trusting his voice to utter more than a syllable. Unconsciously, he wrapped his hand around an object in his pocket. (I hope this will be enough, in time. Someday, she will thank me for all of this. Right now, she simply does not understand. For me to live this life out, here, is pointless. After all, I'm only an avatar of a soul...)

"I'm going to cast a Death spell," she said. "It will be fast and painless, and that was one of the materia that I took from you, so I already have it." Having already disposed of most of her equipment, she slipped the green orb into a stray Carbon Bangle that she'd found discarded on the Highwind.

Cloud gulped, grasping the object in his pocket tightly, hoping that his reflexes were as quick as he had hoped.

"Now then." She attempted to keep her voice light. "I must thank you, Cloud, for both of the wonderful dates that we have had. I am very glad that you were always so protective of me and persistent enough to make sure that I was safe, even when I did not care about such things myself."

He felt her arms quickly wrap around him, and soft lips gently brush his. He could not help being tense and stiff to these gestures. Any movement or change from the position he had taken would lead to a complete breakdown in front of her. (It is too hard for us all as it is...I have to keep calm...just a few minutes more.)

She placed her hand on Derin's shoulder, and he quickly covered it with his own. Biting her lip, Daphne buried her face in his chest for a few moments. "I'm sorry, Zack, that it took so long for me to see, to remember."

"Shh..." He brushed a strand of hair from her eyes. "I knew that it would be hard. After all we learned and talked about, how could you apologize because being here wasn't easy?" He kissed her forehead. "Riss, I'm sorry that I ever expected anything to be easy."

She took a few deep breaths. "I'm not scared for myself," she declared.

"I'm not either," he replied.

Daphne took a few steps back from them, slowly lowering herself to her knees. "I'm going to smile," she said bravely, "just happy that you all will be all right."

A glow began to surround her, as she summoned up the power to cast her final spell.

Derin clenched his teeth and told himself to have patience.

Cloud closed his eyes, murmuring the only prayer he had ever said in his entire life. (Please...give me the strength to carry on...)

Then everything went red.

Someone-most likely Yuffie-screamed in a shrill, nearly inhuman voice.

Somewhere in the haze of hot, wet, spattering liquid, eyes stared in disbelief, lids fluttering, lashes beating desperately in an attempt to clear the path of vision. Who was hurt, in pain? (There is materia...goddammit, someone in the fucking room has to have materia...)

(It wasn't supposed to happen like that. Only a second of hanging on, and then it would be over.)

(Where is the darkness?)

(Why is the Lifestream so heavy and red?)

(Who is crying? Why are there tears? This is supposed to make a happy ending...

...I see light.)

The body had been left behind long before, and a spirit flowed through cool green liquid. Suspended in the dense material, one felt weightless instantly. The current pushed through, and soon the surface was reached.

White sands, where the tide that approached was glowing of its own iridescence.

A man, grizzled, with a beard of the purest white was the greeter. He bore a robe of unstained cloth and spoke soothingly.

(He understands why I did what I did. The masters are in an uproar. This wasn't the plan at all, but he's not surprised.)

"I always knew you had it in you," the man said, with a laugh in his voice. Eldor rarely spoke without joy.

Chapter 30

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic